What is whaikōrero?
Whaikōrero is a taonga of immense mana so it must be regarded with respect and dignity. It is something that is carried not by just one or two on the paepae kōrero but by the hapū and iwi. The mana of the people is influenced by the strength of the paepae.
To be the spokesperson of the iwi carries responsibilities to do it to the best of one's ability. Being the face of the people and expressing their thoughts and ideas is not a frivolous task. Respect, care and aroha are vital if the iwi is to be represented well.
Whai-kōrero means to literally, follow the kōrero. This is following the thread/themes, ideas that are expressed and adding, embellishing, analysing, interpreting, renewing, changing and expanding upon what the previous speaker has said. It is not about introducing new kaupapa or topics but rather to whai i te kōrero (follow) the speaker who spoke before you. Should the need for new but related topics emerge then present as appropriate.
Important skills for effective whaikōrero
The speaker must uphold mana tūpuna, mana tangata, mana marae, mana hapü, mana iwi and mana waka. The mana of the people stands and falls on the ability of the speaker.
Substance, depth of content and purpose are the foundations for effective whaikōrero. Solid research, breadth of knowledge, quality of spoken language, understanding and use of whakapapa, ability to use appropriate whakataukī, pepeha and kīwaha all add to an effective speaker's tool kit.
A primary role is to manaaki manuhiri. The key here is to make connections, by using taura/whakapapa links to connect manuhiri to you and your marae, so that they feel welcomed, wanted and part of you/the occasion. The links begin with the karanga, continue with whaikōrero and are completed with hariru, hongi and kai.
4 ways to become confident in whaikōrero
1. Effective whaikōrero is founded on time spent learning, researching, attending wānanga and hui Māori, listening to kōrero and retaining vast amounts of information. The speaker uses excellent reo to convey ideas and concepts. Being a pūkenga kōrero comes from a powerful desire to be the best one can be as a speaker and being committed to learn, memorise and understand the myriad matauranga vital for superlative whaikōrero.
2. The speaker must be able to traverse the world of the living and of the spirits, to retell the ancient stories of tūpuna, to embellish and utilise expressions gathered from the heavenly worlds and to use the very finest language to express himself on behalf of his people. This is the tapu, the mana that is whaikōrero.
3. The speaker must be organised in his thoughts and ideas, with clear structure so that the audience hears his message. He must practice and be sure of what he will say. This is the foundation of the confidence required to engage the people effectively. Much of the speech will be formal but at times will become informal, depending on the situation. How the speaker does this is up to him as he has the rākau kōrero and the mana to speak.
4. The iwi has bestowed upon the speaker the right to speak for them. This elevates the speaker to the status of a rangatira so his bearing, attitude and actions must reflect this. His kete kōrero must be full and ready to engage with any occasion or topic. Kīwaha, kīrehu, whakataukī,kupu whakarite, whakapapa, hītori and reo rangatira are at his fingertips to bestow upon his manuhiri and manaaki them as they deserve.